The materials used to manufacture this mouse mat include:
- two layers of 100% natural bio-derived flax fibre, 100gsm 2×2 twill weave (0.175m²). Country of purchase: UK.
- ~50ml nontoxic water-based polyvinyl alcohol adhesive. Bostik. Country of purchase:
- medium density fibreboard (0.63m²). Boyle craft brand, prefabricated. Country of purchase: Australia. Country of manufacture: China
- rubberised cork sheet. Country of purchase: Australia.
Raw material forming and processing (offsite, beyond our immediate control)
- Untwisted flax fibres were woven into a 90° reinforcement textile pattern by our supplier.Biotex Flax provides high levels of performance, coupled with the ease of processing normally associated with glass-reinforced materials. The materials use low-twist technology to provide a combination of sustainability, performance and processability not previously seen in composites. Compared to glass fibre composites, Biotex Flax offers reduced weight, improved environmental impact, vibration damping, similar specific stiffness and safer handling. Biotex Flax reinforcements are based on renewable biomass and have fewer health and safety concerns than many conventional alternative materials.
- Bostik PVA is a versatile water based PVA emulsion designed as a multipurpose glue which will give strong and lasting bond to a variety of porous and semi porous materials.PVA is prepared by first polymerizing vinyl acetate, and the resulting polyvinylacetate is converted to the PVA. Other precursor polymers are sometimes used, with formate, chloroacetate groups instead of acetate. The conversion of the polyesters is usually conducted by base-catalysed transesterification with ethanol:
- [CH2CH(OAc)]n + C2H5OH → [CH2CH(OH)]n + C2H5OAc
In terms of microstructure, it is composed mainly of 1,3-diol linkages [-CH2-CH(OH)-CH2-CH(OH)-] but a few percent of 1,2-diols [-CH2-CH(OH)-CH(OH)-CH2-] occur, depending on the conditions for the polymerization of the vinyl ester precursor.
The properties of the polymer depend on the amount of residual ester groups. No oil is required to produce it. PVA is nontoxic. It biodegrades slowly, and solutions containing up to 5% PVA are nontoxic to fish.
- MDF is typically made up of 82% wood fibre, 9% urea-formaldehyde resin glue, 8% water and 1% paraffin wax. In Australia and New Zealand, the main species of tree used for MDF is plantation-grown radiata pine; but a variety of other products have also been used, including other woods, waste paper and fibres.When MDF is cut, a large quantity of dust particles are released into the air. The Environmental Impact of MDF has greatly improved over the years. Today, many MDF boards are made from a variety of materials. These include other woods, scrap, recycled paper, bamboo, carbon fibres and polymers, forest thinnings and sawmill off-cuts. As manufacturers are being pressured to come up with greener products, they have started testing and using non-toxic binders. New raw materials are being introduced. Straw and bamboo are becoming popular fibres because they are a fast-growing renewable resource.
- Urea-formaldehyde, also known as urea-methanal, so named for its common synthesis pathway and overall structure, is a non-transparent thermosetting resin or plastic. It is produced from urea and formaldehyde. These resins are used in adhesives, finishes, particle board, MDF, and molded objects. In 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described formaldehyde as “known to be a Human Carcinogen”. The International Agency for research on cancer deemed formaldehyde as a carcinogen.Formaldehyde resins are commonly used to bind together the fibres in MDF, and testing has consistently revealed that MDF products emit free formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds that pose health risks at concentrations considered unsafe, for at least several months after manufacture. Urea-formaldehyde is always being slowly released from the edges and surface of MDF. When painting, it is a good idea to coat all sides of the finished piece in order to seal in the free formaldehyde. Wax and oil finishes may be used as finishes but they are less effective at sealing in the free formaldehyde.Whether these constant emissions of formaldehyde reach harmful levels in real-world environments is not yet fully determined. The primary concern is for the industries using formaldehyde. As far back as 1987, the U.S. EPA classified it as a “probable human carcinogen” and, after more studies, the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in 1995, also classified it as a “probable human carcinogen”. Further information and evaluation of all known data led the IARC to reclassify formaldehyde as a “known human carcinogen” associated with nasal sinus cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer, and possibly with leukaemia in June 2004.Urea-formaldehyde, also known as urea-methanal, so named for its common synthesis pathway and overall structure, is a non-transparent thermosetting resin or plastic. It is produced from urea and formaldehyde. These resins are used in adhesives, finishes, particle board, MDF, and molded objects.
- There are about 2,200,000 hectares of cork forest worldwide; 34% in Portugal and 27% in Spain. Annual production is about 200,000 tons; 49.6% from Portugal, 30.5% from Spain, 5.8% from Morocco, 4.9% from Algeria, 3.5% from Tunisia, 3.1% Italy, and 2.6% from France. Once the trees are about 25 years old the cork is traditionally stripped from the trunks every nine years, with the first two harvests generally producing lower quality cork. The trees live for about 300 years.The cork industry is generally regarded as environmentally friendly. Cork production is generally considered sustainable because the cork tree is not cut down to obtain cork; only the bark is stripped to harvest the cork. The tree continues to live and grow. The sustainability of production and the easy recycling of cork products and by-products are two of its most distinctive aspects. Cork Oak forests also prevent desertification and are a particular habitat in the Iberian Peninsula and the refuge of various endangered species.Carbon footprint studies committed by Corticeira Amorim, Oeneo Bouchage of France and the Cork Supply Group of Portugal concluded that cork is the most environmentally friendly wine stopper in comparison to other alternatives. The Corticeira Amorim’s study, in particular (“Analysis of the life cycle of Cork, Aluminum and Plastic Wine Closures”), was developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, according to ISO 14040. Results concluded that, concerning the emission of greenhouse gases, each plastic stopper released 10 times more CO2, whilst an aluminium screw cap releases 26 times more CO2 than does a cork stopper.
- A wide variety of formulations using different types of rubber like Natural Rubber, Synthetic Rubber, Nitrile, Neoprene, EPDM Silicone and sizes of cork granuals are available to meet the industry’s various requirements.
- All offcuts and scraps have been retained. These scraps will be used to make other products in the near future such as desktop designer items and dog chew toys.
- No plastic materials were used in the construction or production of this mouse mat. That includes formers, guides, moulds, etc.
- Absolutely no waste materials were generated either before, during or after the entire manufacturing phase. Our zero waste policy applies to all family/household members and employees, including all activities of their daily life.
- All traditional unwanted waste materials received (in the form of packaging) were either reutilised, composted or burned¹ during the winter months for heating our own home property.
Product return (circular manufacturing economy)
- The product may be returned to us for the purposes of reuse, refurbishing and upcycling. Alternatively, the rubberised-cork sheeting may removed from the core by simply peeling it off. Soaking the entire mouse mat in water for a few hours may aid removal of the backing rubberised-cork sheet. You can also return the entire product to us so that we can do this operation ourselves. Our postal address is:
98 Mountain View Road
Moruya, NSW, 2537
Enf of life (product disposal)
- We have determined that this product is best composted after its useful life is over. Industrial-scale composting is niether necessary nor required; home-composting should be sufficient. The best approach is to cut it up into smaller pieces and/or separate the individual layers. Moistening the mouse mat will also speed up the degradation time significantly. Composting time may vary but it should disappear within 9-12 months if your worm farm us in a nice and healthy state.
This can also be used as kindling and burned for home-heating purposes.
NOTE: While researching this article, we looked into the binder that is usde to make MDF. We discovered that urea-formaldehyde is “kind of nasty” (although it is not as bad as phenol formaldehyde or epoxide resin systems). Since we cannot verify that the MDF does not contain a urea-formaldehyde binder, we cannot recommend incinerating this product. In future we will look for more ecologically-friendly sources of MDF suppliers. At the moment the urea formaldehyde content is estimated to be around 5% and this should not be detrimental to your worm farm.
Also, despite an extensive search, we could not find the type of rubber used in the rubberised cork sheeting.We are quickly find that this happens when dealing with large suppliers such as Bunnings and Super Cheap Auto, etc. They simply do not state what minor or secondary materials are used in the products that they are selling. I personally think “this is crap”. It;s not good enough. We will endeavour to find more ecologically-aware suppliers and distributors who are more willing to provide information about their processing and production methods of the products that they sell.
¹Yes we seasonally burn unrecyclable polymers if they cannot be otherwise recycled or reused. We limit this incineration to polyethylene, polypropylene and polyester because they allow complete combustion. No other polymers are incinerated as they create toxic byproducts. We tend to avoid purchasing polymers with aromatic functional groups. All of the ash that is generated by our slow combustion heater is either reused to make geopolymeric concrete products or else used as a trace element fertiliser on our property.